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Under-The-Radar Loreto: 10 Unique Things To Do With Kids

Under-The-Radar Loreto: 10 Unique Things To Do With Kids

I recently did a mother-daughter weekend getaway with friends to Loreto, Mexico. I loved discovering this under-the-radar destination that has authentic charm, a surprising variety of landscapes and plenty of fun things to do with kids. 

Tucked on the east side of Baja Sur California on the Gulf of California (also called the Sea of Cortez), Loreto has desert and mountain landscapes to the west and ocean to the east. We explored them all with outside-the-box experiences, outdoor adventures and cultural interactions that will create lasting memories for three moms and three tweens on this Mexico getaway.

Here are some of the things we liked doing with 11-to-13-year-olds in Loreto. Use them to plan your own family vacation to Loreto and the Baja Peninsula.

For other off-the-beaten track vacations:
• Try Roatan,
• Or the Galapagos Islands.

Loreto, Mexico Hotels: The Best Places To Stay With Kids

Beach Front Hotels

Most people think of the beach when they think of the Baja Peninsula. Here are two options for basing yourself seaside.

a woman relaxes on a rainbow-colored hammock on the beach in loreto.

The Hotel Oasis is a secluded boutique hotel with a private beach, small outdoor pool and bicycles, stand-up paddle boards and kayaks to rent. Rooms are blissfully air-conditioned. The room rate includes a buffet breakfast.

I strongly suggest getting up before the kids at least once and settling into the outdoor lounge area to enjoy a slightly sweet Talega coffee as you watch the sunrise. Or kick back in one of their beach-side hammocks after a day of sightseeing.

Tip: Even if you don’t stay at the hotel make your way there for one of its periodic Tatemada Clambakes.  Indulge in a shellfish dinner and take in the breathtaking views of the Sea of Cortez while the kids romp around on the beach. It’s surprisingly budget-friendly, too. 

a mom and daughter look out onto the gulf of mexico from the patio of the hotel la mision in loreto

The Hotel La Misión Loreto is an upscale hotel that next to the Malecon (boardwalk). It has a sea view, but no beach. It does have air-conditioned rooms, three restaurants, large indoor and outdoor swimming pools, a hot tub and a spa. 

It’s serene and picturesque and a two-minute walk away from the central plaza. If you choose to stay here, keep your eye out for the celebrities who occasionally head here for a secluded getaway. 

Hotels For Families That Need More Space

Here are two great options for families that are staying longer than our weekend getaway or who need room for a group.

Villas del Santo Niño is popular for its homey atmosphere and outdoor pool and lounge area. Families can book one of three studios or two-bedroom apartments. It’s a short block away from both the Plaza and the Malecon. You should book this way in advance as they are always sold out.

Hotel Santa Fe Loreto has spacious accommodations for large groups and families and a pool that meanders through a central courtyard. The onsite Italian restaurant, Casa Mia, is extremely kid-friendly. 

All the rooms, which include studio-style and multi-room suites, have their own full kitchens. There’s a market on the property for groceries. It’s about a five-minute walk to the Plaza and a ten-minute walk to the Malecon

Loreto Vacation Planning Cheat Sheet
Book the best air and hotel packages on Expedia.
Can’t-miss tourDay Trip by Boat to Isla Coronados
Best free Activity: Exploring Loreto’s central plaza
Best morning coffee
: Café Olé in town
Chanin’s Group took their boat trip with Loreto Sea and Land Tours

10 Quintessential Things To Do With Kids in Loreto, Baja Sur California

Fun Things To Do By Sea

Visit the Islands of Loreto in the Sea of Cortez

Our group of three moms and three daughters booked a day trip to nearby Isla Coronados in Loreto Bay. It’s one of several islands that sit within the Bahía de Loreto National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site and a vital area for marine conservation efforts

You can book separate, but all equally incredible, day trips to visit the other Islands of Loreto including Isla Monserrate, Isla Santa CatalinaIsla Danzante and Isla Carmen, the largest.  Each offers the chance to swim in azure waters and see diverse marine life and breathtaking landscapes.

Spot Wildlife on the Water

On our half-day boating adventure we were lucky enough to see dolphin pods, sea lions, crabs, sea turtles and blue-footed boobies.

Baja California Sur is also known for its diverse bird life and the California Gulf has nearly a thousand fish species and some rare marine mammals. We saw wildlife below, on and above the water and on land during the trip.

Our Highlight: Snorkeling With Sea Lions

While navigating around Isla Coronados, we encountered a raft of California Sea Lions napping in the water. Seeing hundreds of them lazing about in their colony on shore was breathtaking. 

spotting sea lions from a boat loreto bay is one of the best things to do with kids in loreto.

As we approached, the sea lions’ lively barks and playful antics reminded us of puppies and added an extra layer of fun and excitement to the adventure. 

We anchored, pulled on wetsuits (the water can be chilly) and snorkel gear, and jumped to witness the sea lions’ water acrobatics up close. The captain let us enjoy the unique encounter for more than an hour; with the wetsuits we didn’t get cold. 

This close encounter was a highlight of the trip for both the girls and mothers. 

Relax on Isla Coronados’ Pristine Beaches

Once we reached Isla Coronados, our boat pulled onto the beautiful unspoiled shore with nothing else in sight but its glistening white sand beaches. The shallow water was so clear it sparkled We could see the fish swimming below without even donning snorkel masks. We spent the afternoon relaxing on this island paradise. 

Our boat guide, Rafa, brought lunch in the form of hand-made taquitos, guacamole, salsa and fresh-cut oranges sprinkled with tajin. The flavors were intense, possibly because we were hungry after a busy morning snorkeling.

We were so sad when it was time to return to the boat to leave, but what a great way to spend our first day in Loreto.

This is a great trip with older kids, tweens and teens who can swim reasonably well. 

Tip: I recommend renting a boat for the whole day to spend more time on the beach. Be sure to bring lots of food and water. Bring toilet paper, too. There’s an outhouse, but it’s rustic. 

Try Winter Whale Watching 

Both the Sea of Cortez and on the Pacific side of the Baja California Sur Peninsula are migratory pathways for several kinds of whales. December to April is the best time of year for spotting them.

On the Pacific side, you can spot gray whales, particularly in areas like Magdalena Bay, San Ignacio Lagoon, and Guerrero Negro. They head to the warmer waters of Baja California Sur to give birth and mate. 

On the Sea of Cortez it’s possible to spot blue whales, humpback whales and fin whales swimming through. 

Wildlife is unpredictable, and whale sightings are never guaranteed. Sadly, they were not around when we were there. But another chance at spotting them is definitely a reason to return. 

Things To Do on Land

Explore the Town of Loreto, BCS, Mexico

It’s easy to spend an afternoon wandering around Loreto’s main square, savoring its small-town charm. The kids loved souvenir shopping; the adults enjoyed the laid-back atmosphere and an incredible sunset. 

We spent a few hours browsing the shops and vendor booths to appreciate the creativity and craftsmanship of the local artists. 

The tortilleria was a great place to pick up some fresh tortillas for snacks (we even brought some home. We re-energized with Nutella frappés from the local barista in the afternoons. 

We also spent a fair amount of time hanging out at La Michoacana for ice cream and paletas (fresh popsicles in a range of flavors). 

Visit 2 of Loreto’s Famous Missions

It might be hard to pull your kids off the beach, but it’s worth it to visit the Our Lady of Loreto Mission (Mission Nuestra Señora de Loreto), a significant cultural and architectural landmark. 

Exploring the mission’s museum and church — either on your own or with a guide — will give you a glimpse of what life was like as the first mission and town were founded in the California Baja Sur region. 

The museum goes into a lot of detail about the story of the mission. Younger kids might well get bored in about a half hour, but you can easily spend more time than that if your kids are up for it. 

This Mission is in the central plaza in town. They continue to hold religious services, including Mass. 

We also visited San Javier Mission, founded in 1699 by Jesuit missionaries, in the mountains above Loreto. It’s a national historic landmark with breathtaking mountain views

The land surrounding Mission Javier is farmed by people in the local village. We found a stand near the missions where they sell local olives, grapes, figs, olive oils and wine. 

Visit Historic Rancho Viejo

On the way to the mission we stopped at Rancho Viejo, the first and oldest ranch in Baja and the perfect place to give urban and suburban kids a taste of farm life. 

This multi-acre home has maintained its authenticity and has changed little in the last century. They still sleep in the open-air with woven beds placed under palapas, a practical adaptation to the hot and humid summers.

Maria del Rosario de los Santos Romero (call her “Chari”), a descendant of the first settlers, runs the ranch. Her knowledge of rancho life is abundant, and she worked hard the entire time we were there.

We arrived in the late morning and helped Chari assembled a late-morning snack for us.

We started by milking goats, which is much harder than it seems. Once we had about 2 gallons, she showed us how to make fresh goat’s milk cheese. It takes about a day to get to the right consistency, but she had a brick on hand from the day before.

Chari put beans on the stove to simmer while she mixed ingredients to make fresh tortillas. She put us to work again, flattening the tortillas with our hands by slapping them back and forth. This is also way harder than it looks, and I admit several tortillas accidentally fell onto the floor. 

Finally, we assemble the warm tortillas, the rich and creamy goat cheese, and the savory beans. They were the most delectable midday snack. We ate one after the other until we were so full. 

Hiking at Las Parras Canyon & Waterfall

We returned to the area the next day for an incredible hike in Las Parras Canyon

From the trail head we walked about two miles through an arroyo (dried river bed) and up into the hills, ending at an incredible water fall.

The hike was easy enough for our three kiddos. And they loved the opportunities they hav to climb on boulders and ford muddy streams to reach the waterfall. 

The four-mile round trip hike wore everyone out. We were ready for a big lunch afterward. And then a well-earned siesta.  

Tip: We would never have found the start of this hike without our tour guides. Also, there’s a lot of private property in the mountains; it’s handy to have someone with you who speaks the language in case you accidentally trespass. 

Planning Tip: The mission and rancho are both on highway 1 and the hiking trail begins about ten minutes off this main highway, making it easy to wrap all three activities into a day trip.

Loreto Restaurants We Loved

Loreto has authentic Mexican restaurants serving classic dishes along with a good selection of international cuisines; many places are family friendly and have outdoor dining. 

Not surprisingly, we found an abundant and varied selection of fresh local seafood on menus, including fish, shrimp, clams and oysters. We found live acoustic music every night in almost every restaurant.

These are our five favorite restaurants for exploring the local food of Loreto:

Café Olé for Café con Leche

We started our mornings with a visit to Café Olé for a variety of coffee drinks, pastries, and eggs any way you like them. The kids will love the hotcakes and French toast. They even have PB&J for the very fussy eaters in your group. It’s open at 7:00 AM.

Orlando’s for Lunch

We liked Orlando’s for its warm ambiance and delicious seafood, especially the Coconut Shrimp. Like many places, it’s open for late breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Asadero El Super Burro for Big Appetites

Plan to go to this restaurant, HUNGRY; they don’t call it Super Burro for nothing. It is a casual dinner spot that is uber popular among the locals, so anticipate a short wait. However, the tasty burritos de gran tamaño (grand-sized burritos) make it worthwhile and are very shareable.This is the place to bring teens with bottomless appetites.

El Zopilote Brewing Co. for Familiar Bar Food

The adults enjoyed authentic Mexican dishes and fresh seafood at this restaurant in the stylish Hotel 1697. The tweens loved that it serves both traditional nachos and Irish Nachos, made with crispy potato chips instead of tortilla chips. Tortilla soup and grilled fish tacos were winners in our group. 

It’s a brewery, so the moms drank local beer while the kids enjoyed rice horchatas and fruity aguas frescas.

Mi Loreto If Everyone Wants Something Different.

Amid twinkling lights and an enchanting atmosphere, Mi Loreto offers a diverse menu of Mexican and international dishes. This very family-friendly spot caters to various tastes. Sample ceviches and seafood specials or play it safe with enchiladas or flank steak.

Basic Information For Loreto, BCS, Mexico

Loreto is known for being a safe and welcoming destination for tourists, especially families. The hospitable atmosphere and hotel options at different price points help to make it family friendly.

Getting there: Loreto International Airport (LTO) has frequent direct flights from San Francisco, Los Angeles, Phoenix, Dallas, San Diego/Tijuana and Calgary, Canada. From other cities in the U.S. and Canada plan to connect through one of these places.

Loreto is a 220-mile drive or 45-minute flight from La Paz, the capital of Baja California Sur. It’s 315 miles north of Cabo San Lucas.

Weather in Baja California: Loreto’s desert climate offers pleasantly warm temperatures year-round. Days are typically warm. But it can be chilly on the water and at night.

For optimal weather conditions, plan to visit between October and April, when temperatures range from the mid-60s to mid-80s. Summer temperatures can be much higher, making activities like hiking harder.

Do You Need a Guide in Loreto? While Loreto is a safe and clean place to explore independently, I do recommend having a guide to offer local knowledge, cultural insight and language assistance. They can make also sure you find the top activities and hidden gems even if you have limited time, like we did. 

Our lovely and knowledgeable guide, Ivette, with BCSLoretoTourism, planned age-appropriate and interesting experiences for our group. She also provided excellent recommendations for local restaurants. And of course, she was able to help us when we didn’t have the Spanish we would have needed on our own.

It was also nice to leave the driving to our exceptional driver, Victor, rather than trying to navigate on our own. It made it much easier to relax and enjoy the drives.

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Chanin Victor is the Travel and Lifestyle Editor at the Santa Monica Observer, with a dedicated column “Travel Trends” found bi-weekly in the print edition. Chanin loves providing readers a window into the ever-evolving world of travel. Beyond her role at the Observer, Chanin is a versatile freelance travel journalist, crafting engaging narratives that transport readers to intriguing destinations. Based in Los Angeles with her family, Chanin seizes every opportunity to discover culinary gems and embark on new adventures. Discover more of Chanin’s travel writing and stunning photography. You can also follow her on Instagram and Facebook.

All photos are the property of Chanin Victor©. They were taken by Chanin and Ivette Granados.

Chanin and her daughter were hosted on this trip by Baja California Sur and Loreto BCS Tourism.